Floridians have less rights today, and they are far less protected than they were last week, following enactment of the new tort reform law. On Thursday, March 23, 2023 lawmakers passed CS/CS/HB 837 which is also known as the Omnibus Tort Legislation Act. It represents the most egregious infringement of Floridian’s rights in favor of large, powerful and profitable insurance companies that we have ever seen. Governor DeSantis unceremoniously signed the bill into law on Friday, March 24, 2023 at 10:44 a.m.
As an initial matter, the new law became effective on Friday, March 24, 2023, and applies to all negligence cases FILED thereafter. However, the changes to the Statute of Limitations for negligence cases from 4 years to 2 years applies to all causes of action that accrue or happen after March 24, 2023. This means injured accident victims now have half of the amount of time they previously had to pursue their rights. There is no legitimate basis for this change to an injured claimant’s time to pursue his or her rights after an accident other than to benefit insurance companies, save them money and in turn increase their profits.
Other detrimental changes in law that deprive Floridians of their rights and empower insurance companies include the following:
- Attorney Fees Reform: for more than 130 years in the State of Florida there existed a right to attorney fees for claimants that were forced to sue their insurance company for delay, denial, or underpayment of benefits owed under a contract of insurance for auto, health, life, etc. The basis of this right was to protect Floridians against large, powerful and well-funded insurance companies who have limitless access to attorneys and could outspend claimants who may be unable to afford or obtain an attorney to address the denial. With the new law, this right to prevailing party attorney fees has essentially been eliminated, which will leave many Floridians without proper recourse against insurance companies that wrongfully deny or refuses to fully pay claims.
- Modified Contributory Negligence: the new law changes Florida’s comparative negligence standard of fault to a modified contributory negligence standard. Under the new law, if the injured accident victim is 51% at fault, he or she is precluded from recovering anything. They will get nothing. This is true even though the other party was found 49% at fault. Previously, the claimant would be entitled to recover reduced damages so long as they were at least 1% free from fault. This new law will seriously impact victims from recovering in premises liability cases in Florida including trip and falls, slip and falls, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, etc.
- Negligent Security: the law will allow the victim to be victimized twice by inviting the criminal into their civil case and onto the jury form. When considering whether a business was negligent in providing adequate safety, a jury will now be allowed to compare the fault of the negligent business or premises owner with the fault of the criminal in negligent security cases. In doing so, this law will make all Floridians less safe. It will divert responsibility away from businesses and premises owners, which in turn will remove their incentives to ensure the security of their customers and employees is a priority.
- Bad Faith: reduces and removes protections from our existing laws that require insurance companies to treat their insureds fairly and to deal with them in good faith when adjusting their claims. The new limitations on bad faith, along with the other changes in the law including elimination of attorneys’ fees, will give insurance companies an even greater advantage over claimants with little recourse.
- Medical Damages: the new law places significant limitations on the presentation of medical damages to a jury. Overall, it will severely limit injured accident victims from receiving medical care for their injuries in the past, present and future. It will also lead to reduced compensation for injured accident victims which will limit their ability to receive care into the future. We urge you to watch the impact statement from an accident survivor who testified before the legislative committee by clicking here.
For additional information on Florida’s New Tort Reform Law, and how it benefits big insurance, we recommend reading the following articles and opinion pieces:
- Statement from Florida Justice Association (FJA) President Curry Pajcic Regarding the Passage of HB 837 by the Florida Senate.
The President of the Florida Justice Association summed it up best in his statement on Friday: “The new law does nothing to protect Floridians and everything to protect the profits of billionaire insurance corporations.” A link to the full statement can be found above.
The Datny Law Firm agrees entirely with this statement and overall characterization of the new law as harmful to the rights of everyday Floridians. However, we will not let it deter us from our commitment to fight for the rights of injured accident victims in Boca Raton, Wellington, Winter Park and throughout the State of Florida. We will continue to relentlessly represent our clients and ensure they get the justice they deserve.
One thing is clear about the new law, now more than ever, TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE with only 2 years to pursue your rights. After an accident, whether involving a car accident in Boca Raton, a slip and fall in Wellington, a trip and fall in Winter Park, it is important that you seek immediate legal representation from a skilled and knowledgeable attorney like David B. Datny at The Datny Law Firm. For a FREE consultation, call us any time at 561-221-7474 or simply engage the chat bot at the bottom of the screen.